Monday, June 18, 2018

Spot On

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads 
me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul..." - Psalm 23: 1-3

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

I'm not much for lists except when it comes to shopping for food. I have to make sure that the things I really want and need are on there, while staying on a budget. After twenty minutes, or so, a meticulously thought out list appears with groups of items to be bought at their respective store. Of course, room is left for the things that will come across my path while food hunting, causing excitement and a curiosity to try. If you didn't already pick up on it...yes, I get excited shopping for food.

In the movie 'The Bucket List', a pair of cancer patients played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, while facing their own mortality, decide to comprise a list of the things they want to do before they, well, kick the bucket.

The items range from skydiving to race car driving, laughing until they cry, to kissing the most beautiful girl (Jack Nicholson's character's grand-daughter), and then sitting at the top of an Egyptian pyramid to helping a complete stranger.

Each time I watch the movie, there is something that prompts me to make a list of things I would like to do before dying. With deep and long thought, I come up short of a significant list like they did. Maybe it's because a lot of what I really wanted to do in life has already been done, sans list. Like international travel, adrenaline rushes, culinary gambles, and finding true love (giving birth to my son).

There were even things that happened that I didn't know I wanted to do until I did them, purely by blessing. Now that I am older, the list is taking on a different form. While there are a couple places I would still like to see - Israel, Bora Bora, and Greece - I need there to be more depth behind the bullet points in my life.

I want it to be more about checking off boxes, not making lists. There needs to be a purpose behind the things chosen to do and the reason behind the choice. Are they on the checklist because of a need to gain attention or popularity? Are they directed at one person or every person met?

It would be easy to think of one thing and do it well. Like ridding a garden completely of weeds. That is no small task so that's probably why I don't have a massive garden most years. Priorities for my life or even for the day, have shifted. They have fallen into a marching order of the things that really need to matter in this one-chance-only life.

Like family and friends. While I may not see or talk to all of my friends and family on a consistent basis, I do pray for them. I pray for peace and hope to fill them and that they would always know they are loved. Often, that comes as a note to them saying, "I was just thinking of you and wanted to say hi!" Or being available to talk when they need more than a text. Check.

I don't want to float through life. I don't want to check the boxes of a superficial list. I don't want it to be all about me, even though those moments can happen often and fiercely. I don't want to be known as a selfish and indulgent woman who never reached out or showed compassion. So, what might the checklist look like for me?

Well, while the list might be long, I hope it will be meaningful. The points or questions of challenge will be well thought out. The spirit in which the points were written will be intentional and genuine. The only danger with making any kind of list is that it can quickly be forgotten or pushed aside, leaving something less fulfilling to take its place.

So, it's a daily decision to keep the checklist in place, somewhere visible, so that the commitment to fully check off each item is honored. That as selfish as I will feel some days, it's more important to ignore myself and reach out to others.

Will I be kind? Check - today was a good day to be kind. Will I be thankful even though things aren't going my way? Maybe tomorrow - I stubbed my toe. Will I help someone in need even though my day is crazy and the ten heavy bags of groceries are ripping my hands off? Check - ouch. Will I think before opening my mouth to deliver a sarcastic comment? Check - silence and grace won out, thankfully.

While I'm not perfect and some of the things on my checklist might take a long time to check off, consistently, it means more to be sincere about the check than to simply do away with it for the sake of getting it out of the way. What does your checklist look like?

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever made a list of things you have always wanted to do? Were some of them also things that added to your character and integrity?

While lists are great reminders of what we want or need to do, the items checked off with joy and a sense of satisfaction can mean a lot to ourselves and others.

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that your life is not a list of things to check off in order to gain God's grace and favor. It's about hitting the mark in loving God and others.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the things that He will bring into your heart that you'll want checked off.




Monday, June 11, 2018

I'll Be Back!

**Photo courtesy of www.google. ca**


This week's post will not be done due to the passing of a beautiful woman who lived a full life of love, hardship, diligence, humor, and selflessness. While she leaves a void in the hearts of those who knew and loved her here on Earth, heaven rejoices at receiving a daughter.

I look forward to seeing you in heaven, Anastasia Haluszka! 

Monday, June 4, 2018

S'up??


**Photo courtesy of www.google.com**


If you were to ask me right now how I am doing, it would not be enthusiastic or optimistic in response. When a multitude of things are happening all at once in a person's life, it's hard to be upbeat and positive. It's even harder to express that when someone asks you what's up.

While, I take the time to ask a friend what's on their mind because they look down, I see, more and more, that our society seems to operate at an arm's length. That some people, while having the best intentions, ask how we are without truly wanting an answer. A real answer.

The kind of real answer that could be messy or uncomfortable for the person who asked the question in the first place. An answer wrought with pain, hurt, fear of rejection, or loneliness that may even cause fear in the questioner because it's now becoming a commitment.

A commitment to sit down and listen to someone who feels like their life is falling apart. Someone who might see you as their only source of hope, empathy and compassion. Their only lifeline to getting through another pain-filled day. So, why do so many people ask the question if they are afraid of the answer? Why are people so afraid to ask the question in the first place?

In the Bible, there is a verse that talks about being in the trenches with another person during difficult times. It talks about weeping with those who weep, mourning with those who mourn but also rejoicing with those who rejoice or celebrate. To have compassion and empathy. To walk in the other person's shoes, telling them that you are there for them. Truly there.

While their hurt may not be similar to anything that you have experienced, hurt is universal. Shouldn't care and compassion be universal too? Unfortunately, it isn't and there are many who choose to remain at arm's length. I am not one of them.

I know what it's like to hurt beyond the ability to describe the intensity and excruciating nature of the hurt. I also know what it's like to be walked past by others who never ask how I am. That hurts too but I don't judge or condemn anyone who may not want to ask the question.

Instead, I make a conscious effort to seek out the lonely, the hurting, the rejected. I choose to stand in the trenches with those who are feeling pain beyond anything they've experienced before. I choose to be there with them and pray for them when words fail me or my words fail to comfort them and, instead, I sit with them sharing in a dark piece of their world.

I choose to be a compassionate, empathetic, and caring woman because, for me, it's the right thing to do. At one time, I was a child who loved to play in the mud. Okay, even as an adult, I still love to play in the mud. I don't mind being in the muck or getting dirty. I don't run or shy away from the messy or uncomfortable because I've been in the mud of life experiences and the hurt that can erupt out of those experiences.

I also want to bring hope to someone who may not know the same hope that saved me - Jesus Christ. It was He who helped me get washed off and cleaned up so that I could really care about others and not be afraid to ask and listen to how someone is.

Encouragement for the week:

How are you doing today? Is it a good day or have you been struggling? Has the struggle been going on longer than you like?

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that you are never alone. That God is with you and promises to never leave you. So, even if you are having a bad day, or a bad year, you can keep trusting Him to help you through the tough times in order to bring you in to better times.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He cares about you and how you are doing. He wants to help you through the tough times and bring you into brighter times. He can be trusted.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Assume The Position

"The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom..."
- Isaiah 35: 1

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Assumptions, much like expectations, can have devastating consequences. Even in its definition, the word assumption has similarity to expectation stating: 'a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.'

Whether big or small in size, assumptions can make us not only look foolish but feel foolish. Feelings such as inadequacy, disappointment, and discouragement name but a few of the 'side effects' of assumptions gone rogue.

Like expectations, I used to assume a lot about, well, a lot. If the weather person said it was going to be a sunny day, their word was their bond. However, the assumption that predicting weather was accurate became, at best, consistently inconsistent.

Our assumptions about the weather often pales in comparison to the larger situations we can easily get caught up in. Like assuming every Muslim is an extremist, every woman is out to manipulate, or every guy is a dog.

Perhaps, you have been on the receiving end of other people's wrong assumptions about you which resulted in heartbreak and self-consciousness, leading you to doubt who you are. I know I have.

Before Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came on the scene, over 2000 years ago, there was an obvious build up that a Messiah was coming. The people of that time assumed that this Messiah would finally release them from the oppression they had been facing through wrathful force and mass destruction.

That He would be a mighty warrior, riding on a white horse, brandishing a massive sword, and annihilate the Roman Empire and its armies in one fell swoop. That all would be made right and justice would be served. It turned out to be the biggest wrong assumption ever made.

Jesus came as a baby in a manger instead of a handsome knight on a horse and his weapon was not a sword, but love. Love and mercy for every person He encountered. Acceptance of every race, creed, and color, all without assumption.

He invited people to follow Him but never assumed they would. He taught what was right but never assumed anyone would listen to or do the things He preached. Jesus was the most unassuming, unexpectant, loving person to walk the Earth.

He was never disappointed when others, continuously, rejected Him. He was never surprised when those closest to Him denied ever knowing Him. Jesus was the embodiment of what many of us desire to be, whether Christian or not.

His resilience never stopped Him from being vulnerable in loving others or the toughness preventing Him from grieving openly. Nor His intelligence causing hesitation to mingle with all levels of society.

Jesus never put up walls. He never placed restrictions. He possessed an openness to receive people, to love people, all without expectation or assumption.

That is who I desire to be. A woman who holds nothing back so that others can know they are loved, appreciated, and encouraged to be their best. All while making no assumptions or holding any expectations as to the results.

It is my goal that both assumptions and expectations will continue to fall to the floor so that room can be made to live more freely and abundantly. Freedom in Jesus and an abundant life through that, in my experience, have been the keys to living worry free and enjoying every moment in this life journey.

Encouragement for the week:

Do you sometimes make wrong assumptions about things or people? Have the results left you feeling disheartened?

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that God desires us to love others after we have loved God with all that we are. Don't allow assumptions or expectations to muddy God's plan for you as His child and commissioned disciple within His kingdom.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He cares for you and knows what you have gone through in your life. He wants to help you through each day and transform you into a new person as part of a relationship with Him.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Just Like That

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Looking back on life and situations, I can't help but wonder if life was lived well. When I was a woman in my twenties, I'm not sure if you could say I was living the dream.

I was twenty-one when marriage and motherhood was staring me in the face. It certainly wasn't ideal in how everything played out but, at that age, do we really know what we're doing?

Now that I am older, here's hoping for wisdom and caution when facing every situation, especially the difficult ones. Unfortunately, there are some things you don't get to pick and choose in which direction to go.

Sometimes, life deals you a hand that you can't give back and, just like that, you have to navigate something you would give anything to get rid of. Like an illness or heart wrenching marriage.

Life can be a cruel and heartless thing with an indiscriminate attitude. No single person is exempt from bad things that can happen. So where does that leave us? How do we make sense of the senseless?

Recently, I was party to news that a dear friend might have less time to live than originally thought. My heart sank even though I was prepared for the inevitable. Suddenly, all I could think of is if they knew or believed they had lived life fully.

The reality of it all is that life can be very short and knowing that, we have the ability to live right now, to the extreme and fullest. I am reminded of what the Bible says about the precious nature of life.

There is a book in the Bible written by Jesus' brother, James. In James 4:14 it says, "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." A humbling statement.

While you could panic over what James has said, I believe it's to be understood in the context of making the most of each day of your life. That as short as life can be, it's even more crucial that we live a life we can one day look back on and know it was well lived.

Encouragement for the week:

If you were to look back on the past five or ten years of your life, right now, could you say it has been a life well lived?

If you are a Christian reading this, you were created by God to serve and to add to His kingdom while on earth. Are you making the most of the life God has given you?

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He desires to know you intimately and that you live a full and enjoyable life with Him.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Tugging At Heartstrings

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Our hearts can be pulled in multiple directions at any given time. We bring soup to someone who is physically ill or sit at the side of a dear friend whose heart has been broken. There are so many things that can move us and tug at our heartstrings.

For me, it doesn't take something big to move me to compassion, or feel empathy for an individual facing something life-changing. However, there are times my heart can be tugged by selfish things. When the longing for my own agenda and preferences to how things should happen, are more important. That is a harsh truth but truth, nonetheless.

Yet, in comparing my life before and after God, there really is no comparison. I was a mess without Him. I was navigating life with a broken compass. I thought I knew what the best in life looked like, when in reality, I didn't. My heart was tugged by the material or physical things that, inevitably, left me unsatisfied.

Now, with God, I still think I know what I want but, honestly, God knows better and my heart is tugged for the same things as His. It's just easier to make decisions in my life because of God. Weird but factual. When fighting with myself about wanting what I want, I am reminded of something Jesus, the Son of God, said in the Bible.

He knew it wasn't all about what He wanted, although, He did have a heart tugging moment when He was facing death on the Cross. Yet, instead of insisting on His own way, He spoke words that are in a book of the Bible called Luke. Luke was a follower of Jesus and saw the things that Jesus had to face.

Luke recorded Jesus' humility and willingness to put Himself aside for the best - God's best. In Luke 22:42 Jesus spoke, "Not my will, but yours be done". Meaning, Jesus already knew that the best was yet to come by choosing something other than what He wanted. I want the same.

When I'm stuck in a heart tugging moment about something I think I should have now, let me be reminded of the above, because there is really nothing better than what God has planned. Instead of stopping short of greater things, let my heart be tugged by what God wants for me - the best.

Encouragement for the week:

What tugs at your heartstrings? Is it a longing to do what's best for now?

Would you be willing to wait if you knew the best was yet to come?

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that God always has the best plan in place for you and that His will is far better and more satisfying than anything in this world that might try to get your attention. Keep moving toward God's heart and what it holds for you.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the best He has for you. He will help you make the best choices at the right time that will bring satisfaction to your life.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Bobbing For Apples

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**

Have you ever gone to a Halloween party that had a bucket of bobbing apples? You didn't win a prize until you secured one in your mouth. Your face would get wet and water would, inevitably, splash into your eyes, temporarily blinding you. The experience could be a test study in futility and frustration.

Life can be a bit like bobbing for apples. You see all kinds of opportunities right in front of you and, at first, it seems like you can't lose. That you are about to secure the best decision. Lately, I feel like I have been the person who just stands at the tub of apples, paralyzed by fear of choosing the wrong apple. They all look good but one might be better than the other. How would I know?

Every morning, whether sitting in the dark or watching a fire in the wood stove, I pray. Sometimes desperately. Recently, it's been for wisdom to make the right decisions about life, work, and my passions. What is the right and wise decision to make when, no matter what you decide, there will be a varying length of dominoes in any given direction, affecting my situation and, possibly, others? Then, I think about people I know and the kinds of decisions they have made.

My friend who is a single father to four young boys. My girlfriend and her husband who are navigating their way through his cancer journey. Or my other friend, a lady I admire, who's carving out a new career path for herself. Along the way, they all had to make life altering decisions that may or may not affect others. Decisions that could not have been easy and even, scary. Yet, they made the decisions that had to be made.

Some decisions are easier to make than others, that's for sure. Choosing what clothes to wear each day, no brainer. Choosing whether or not to quit your job to pursue your passion, not so much. For me, going to God for the answers and wisdom I need is comforting. I don't think I have ever found a life situation that hasn't been addressed in Scripture. From finances to friendships, I have always been helped.

Yet, the situation I face now, while having the freedom to choose, has never been more nerve wracking. You'd think it would be easier, wouldn't you? So, why isn't it? There is a great promise in the Bible within a book called Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a prophet and a man chosen by God to do some important work but Jeremiah questioned himself and his abilities.

God knew that about Jeremiah and many others, myself included, and issued this promise, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you..." (Jeremiah 29:13-14). I may question my decision making abilities at times but if I hang in there and keep asking for help to make those important decisions, the answers will come...soon, I hope.

Encouragement for the week:

What factors influence your decisions? Do they complicate or simplify those decisions?

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that when you seek God for wisdom and help, He promises to give both. Make sure you have the time and a quiet mind to hear God clearly when it comes to making important decisions.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He is standing ready to help you with your problems and give you the tools needed to make the big decisions that you might be struggling with right now. You can trust Him to help you.